1954 was a good year for Robert Taylor. He starred in two notable films Valley of the Kings and Rogue Cop. In May he married Ursula Thiess, the love of his life. This is my review of Rogue Cop.
Rogue Cop is a movie about sin, redemption and forgiveness. The story is told through the life of Det. Sgt. Chris Kelvaney (Robert Taylor), a crooked cop. Kelvaney is living high off his contacts in the underworld, dressing beautifully and throwing money around as no honest cop could. He has a younger brother Eddie (Steve Forrest), a uniformed cop on the beat. One night Eddie sees a murderer escaping from the crime scene and subsequently identifies the crook from mug shots.
The murderer, it seems, has friends in high (or low) places in the underworld, Beaumont (George Raft) and Ackerman (Robert F. Simon). They tell Chris to call off Eddie unless he wants his brother killed. Eddie, being a straight arrow, refuses to cooperate and suffers the consequences. The rest of the movie concerns Chris Kelvaney’s quest to avenge his brother while avoiding disgrace from his superiors.
Chris Kelvaney is played by Robert Taylor in an Oscar worthy performance as a man who is, at first, satisfied with himself but who comes to realize what a mess he’s made of things. Gradually he becomes disgusted with himself and begins to understand that he needs forgiveness for his past. Taylor is utterly convincing in the role, first as the self-satisfied crook and later as the devastated man looking to make amends by turning informer and closing down Raft’s crime empire.
Steve Forrest’s role is underwritten but he makes the best of it. Unusually for a gangster film, Rogue Cop has two female characters who actually do something. Janet Leigh is Karen, a former mobster’s moll whose escape from the world of crime inspires Chris. There is a wonderful scene where Chris is bullying Karen to get her to help his brother. He grabs her roughly and kisses her. She resists and then gradually responds to the kiss. Leigh’s face eloquently portrays the change. Anne Francis plays Beaumont’s drunken mistress Nancy. Kelvaney is the only person who treats her kindly when her paramour throws her out. His gentleness is a step on his way to redemption.
Robert Ellenstein is especially good as an honest cop who turns on Kelvaney for his dishonesty then supports him at the end. A wounded and possibly dying Kelvaney asks him for forgiveness but the reply is ambiguous.
Rogue Cop‘s John F. Seitz was nominated for a best black and white cinematography Oscar for 1954. The movie was based on a novel of the same name by mystery writer and screen writer William P. McGivern.